Obama news conference: Blasts GOP on immigration, calls for release of Israeli soldier in Gaza, admits U.S. 'tortured some folks' after 9/11
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - President Barack Obama, speaking at a White House news conference Friday, said House Republicans are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable version of an immigration bill even though they know the bill isn't going anywhere.
IMMIGRATION: Republicans are pushing legislation that could clear the way for eventual deportation of more than 500,000 immigrants brought here illegally as kids and address the surge of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama says Republicans know that legislation won't succeed in the Senate. He says Republicans aren't even trying to solve the problem. He says they're just trying check a box leaving town for their annual August recess.
Obama says while Congress is away, he'll have to make tough choices about immigration challenges himself. He's alluding to executive action he's said he's considering to deal with immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
Obama says he will have to act alone to address the crisis because the government is running out of money to deal with it.
ISRAEL-GAZA: On the Middle Eastern front, Obama is calling for the unconditional and immediate release of an Israeli soldier who was apparently captured in a clash with Hamas militants.
Obama says it will be difficult to put back together the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel that collapsed Friday. But he says the U.S. will continue working toward a cease-fire. He says Israel committed to the cease-fire, but the cease-fire was violated.
Obama says it's heartbreaking to see what's happening in Gaza. He says he wants to see everything possible done to ensure Palestinian civilians aren't killed.
Obama says Israel must be able to defend itself, but that irresponsible actions by Hamas have put civilians in danger.
The truce was brokered by the U.S. and U.N. but collapsed less than two hours after it began.
9/11 TORTURE: In another development with Mid East ties, Obama says in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that the United States did things that were wrong and crossed a moral line. He says, quote, "we tortured some folks."
Obama was commenting on a Senate investigation into the CIA's interrogation techniques. A report on that investigation's results is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
Obama says it's important to remember how horrified Americans were after 9/11. But he says it's important to remember the U.S. must live up to its values.
Obama also says he has full confidence in CIA Director John Brennan. The CIA director has apologized to senators after the CIA's inspector general found agency employees improperly searched the computers of Senate staffers conducting the investigation into post-9/11 interrogation and detention practices.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE: Turning to the Russian-Ukraine situation, Obama says the U.S. is limited in what it can do to deter Russia's actions in Ukraine because Russia and President Vladimir Putin are ignoring their long-term interests.
Obama says the U.S. has done everything possible to support Ukraine's government and to deter Russia. But he says short of going to war, there are going to be constraints about what the U.S. can do.
Obama says the U.S. is imposing sufficient costs, and Russia should want to take the needed steps to get economic sanctions lifted.
But Obama says, quote, "people don't always act rationally." He says sometimes people don't act based on their own interests.
Obama says the U.S. must keep working to de-escalate the conflict.
THE ECONOMY: As to the nation's economy, Obama says it is getting stronger and, quote, "engines are revving a bit louder."
Obama is praising the July hiring and advances by the U.S. economy.
The president cites new data showing that employers added 209,000 jobs last month - the sixth straight month of job growth above 200,000.
But Obama says Congress has blocked steps that would maintain that momentum or even accelerate the recovery.
Obama has been pushing legislation to raise the minimum wage and to broadly increase spending on infrastructure projects.
The unemployment rate ticked up in July to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent as more Americans started looking for work.
EBOLA OUTBREAK: And on the topic of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Obama says he is taking it seriously. He says the United States is taking precautions for next week's U.S.-African summit in the nation's capital.
He says the federal Centers for Disease Control is working with international health organizations to provide assistance to the affected countries. He says this outbreak is more aggressive than in the past.
Administration officials said the leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone had canceled their trip to Washington for the gathering of African leaders.
U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the Ebola virus has killed more than 700 people this year. The current outbreak is the largest since the disease first emerged in Africa nearly 40 years ago.